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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                      jgj
tant air. "Thanks. I certainly will have a drink. As for
these feet, I tell you, I put my best into 'em. Vasily Va-
silyevich said to me: 'Zuyev, this is a special case. Do
your best.' But has Zuyev ever done anything but his
best? If you see Vasily Vasilyevich, tell him you are
pleased with the work."
With that the old man left the ward, bowing and
mumbling to himself. Meresyev lay gazing at his new
feet standing on the floor at his bedside, and the more
he looked at them the more he liked their skilful design,
the excellence of their finish and their lightness. "Ride a
bike, dance the polka, fly a plane, right up to the Lord!
Yes, I will! I'll do all these things!" he reflected.
That day he sent Olya a long and cheerful letter in
which he informed her that his job of receiving new air-
craft was drawing to a close and that he hoped that in
the autumn, or at the latest in the winter, his chiefs would
grant his request to leave this dull job in the rear, with
which he was absolutely fed up, and send him to the
front, to his own wing, where his comrades had not for-
gotten him and were, in fact, looking forward to his
return. This was the first cheerful letter he had written
since the disaster happened to him, the first letter to his
beloved, in which he told her that he was always think-
ing of and longing for her and expressed, rather timidly,
his cherished dream of meeting her again when the war
was over and, if she had not changed her mind, of set-
ting up a home together. He read the letter over again
several times and at last, heaving a sigh, he carefully
crossed out the last lines.
The letter he wrote to the "meteorological sergeant"
simply bubbled with high spirits and merriment, elo-
quently describing the events of this great day. He made
a sketch of the artificial feet such as no emperor ever
wore, described how he had taken his first steps, and told
her about the garrulous old craftsman and his prophecy
that he, Alexei, would be able to ride a bike, dance the
polka and fly right to heaven. "And so, expect me in
the wing; tell the Commandant to arrange for a place
for me at the new base," he wrote, casting a sidelong
glance at the floor. The feet protruded from under the
bed as though somebody were hiding there. Alexei looked